Musée de l’homme/Museum of Man

Picture source: me.
La voûte: vault.  La voûte plantaire: arch of the foot.  Apparently we’re the only species to have one.  Picture source: me.

I’m the son of an anthropology major, and have strong memories from childhood of a poster on the wall of the Department of Anthropology at the college that my parents attended of the evolution of the human foot.  Being a geek, I’ve remained fascinated ever since with the morphology of the body and how it changes over the course of evolution.  So, I was happy when recently, after a long closure for renovations, the Musée de l’homme (Museum of Man) in Paris just reopened.  As a connoisseur of museums of anatomy and anthropology, I have to say: this is a good one.

The main exhibits are framed around three questions: who are we, where do we come from, and where are we headed?  The answer to the first question is framed around the duality of the facts that we are all pretty similar to each other, and yet all unique.  A brief discussion of genomics is followed by a number of exhibits on human anatomy, especially those aspects of it that are unique, as those aspects contrast with those of other species.  (Apparently we’re the only species whose ears can swell in response to emotion.)  It covers the human as physical being, mental/spiritual being, social being, and language user.

Close-up of the display, for those who are as old and  near-sighted as I am.

The second question is a good overview of human evolution, featuring lots of good skulls and/or skull casts.

Verdict: if you like science museums, you’ll probably like this one.  Things to be aware of: (1) as of the date of writing (December 2015), the museum has just recently reopened, and there is likely to be a line to get in; (2) there is very little English on the displays, and if you can’t read French, you’re going to have to do a lot of guessing. On that note: see below for more vocabulary from the exhibits.  Click on the pictures to see the Zipf’s Law words in the captions.

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